Monthly Archives: January 2015

We are volcanoes

30 January 2015
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We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Indie Authors on Campus

30 January 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Bob Hoyt, an instructor and director of the Health Informatics program at the University of West Florida, knew his students were struggling with the high cost of their textbooks. The nominal price of college textbooks has “risen more than fifteenfold” since 1970 — which is three times the rate of inflation — according to a recent article in the Economist, while the Wall Street Journal notes the cost of new print textbooks has risen, on average, about 6% a year for the last decade. Hoyt was also frustrated that new developments in his field meant information in the books was already obsolete by the time they were published. “There were no textbooks that were up to date or easy to read,” Hoyt says. To solve the problem, he decided to create his own, with associate editor and adjunct instructor at the University of West Florida Ann Yoshihashi, and self-publish it on — and sell it for about a third of the cost of a regular textbook.

Seven years later, Health Informatics: Practical Guide for Healthcare and Information Technology Professionals (about using IT to improve health care) is in its sixth edition and is taught at more than 200 universities in 30 countries. The book has sold about 12,000 copies and has been endorsed by the American Medical Informatics Association. While the sales figures don’t come close to the stratospheric success usually associated with self-publishing success stories, there are signs that self-published textbooks could be the start of a new trend with the potential to upend the $7 billion college-textbook industry.

. . . .

Lulu President and CEO Tom Bright says it’s precisely authors like Hoyt and Yoshihashi—authors he calls “content entrepreneurs”—that are leading the next successful wave in self-publishing. Bright notes that content entrepreneurs are primarily business owners or professionals—people for whom writing isn’t their primary career.

Bright says authors of this sort sell 20 times as many books on Lulu as fiction writers do. “We’ve found that top nonfiction and education books generate 24% more net sales per title than top books in other genres,” he adds.

. . . .

 But Yoshihashi had done her research and determined that self-publishing held a number of advantages for them over traditional publishing. These advantages included the fact that they were able to keep a larger share of the profits, the ability to control the price of the book, the quick turnaround time from submission to publication, and the ease with which they could update the book and republish it. “We also can say when we would like older editions to be no longer printed. You don’t have this type of control with traditional publishers,” he notes.

. . . .

Hoyt feels that the rising cost of college textbooks has helped their affordably priced volume become so successful. With the Kindle edition priced at $32.95 and the print edition at $69.95, the book is considerably less expensive in both formats than most textbooks available for purchase. Hoyt says his students appreciate that he took pricing into consideration when self-publishing: “They can buy a chapter at a time so they don’t have to buy the entire textbook if they don’t need it. This, he notes, “is very important given the financial burden to students and burgeoning textbook prices.” And while renting textbooks has become a popular option for students who can’t commit to purchasing the book, Hoyt notes that buying their textbook in e-book format is actually cheaper than renting it.

But, even with this competitive pricing, the profits add up quickly—Lulu authors keep 80% of the income from print sales and 90% of digital sales. With the proceeds generated from the sale of the volume, the authors have donated more than $100,000 to the University of West Florida and established grants of more than $25,000 to support health informatics educational programs. Self-publishing, Hoyt says, let them control the price of the book to get ahead of the competition while keeping costs low for their students.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Amazon earnings: 45 cents a share, vs. expected EPS of 17 cents

30 January 2015

From CNBC: blew past Wall Street’s earnings expectations on Thursday as holiday sales climbed some 15 percent, sending the company’s shares rallying 14 percent in after-hours trading.

Amazon issued fourth-quarter earnings of 45 cents a share, down from 51 cents per share a year ago, but soaring past expectations of 17 cents.

Revenue rose 15 percent year-over-year, to $29.33 billion, but that trailed analysts’ estimates of $29.67 billion. Excluding currency headwinds, the company said revenue increased 18 percent.

Amazon Prime, its annual membership program that costs $99 a year, was a bright spot for the e-commerce giant.

The company said worldwide Prime memberships grew 53 percent last year—up 50 percent in the U.S. and “even a bit faster” abroad.

“When we raised the price of Prime membership last year, we were confident that customers would continue to find it the best bargain in the history of shopping,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. “[I]n 2014 alone we paid billions of dollars for Prime shipping and invested $1.3 billion in Prime Instant Video.”

. . . .

Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud business, grew about 90 percent, year-over-year, to about 1 million active customers. The company plans to start bulking up that area sometime this quarter.

Link to the rest at CNBC

New publishing trends reshaping reading

30 January 2015

From The Chicago Tribune:

In November, a pair of technology journalists issued the latest in what seems to be a constant stream of announcements proclaiming the start of a book publishing revolution. First, co-authors Jason Hiner and Lyndsey Gilpin said they would crowdfund their project, asking individuals to donate toward a $10,000 goal in exchange for free tote bags, book copies and, for $500, a chance to chat with the authors by phone.

. . . .

“Books have barely been touched by the digital revolution,” Hiner says in a video on the authors’ Indiegogo crowdfunding site. The publishing industry moves slowly. The technology world Gilpin and Hiner are writing about moves quickly. In the gap, anything a book says can be canceled by simple forward momentum while the author waits for the presses to roll.

Compared to what has happened in the music and newspaper industries, digital technologies are fueling more evolution than revolution in book publishing. But change is well under way, starting with the dizzying rise in self-publishing, the rapid growth of all-you-can-read book subscription services, a surge in crowdfunded publishing, and the growth of the e-book.

Mark Coker’s company, Smashwords, owes its existence to e-publishing. Coker launched it after a novel about the soap opera business he co-authored with his wife, Lesleyann Coker, left publishers cold.

“The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got,” Coker says. Publishers told his agent that “Boob Tube” was a dud because soap-opera-based books always flopped. That’s what the record showed. But Coker wondered how much publishers really knew. “The vast majority of their books fail,” he says. “The dirty secret of the publishing industry is, at the end of the day, they’re really just throwing spaghetti against the wall.”

Link to the rest at The Chicago Tribune

What I Get Paid For My Novels: Or, Why I’m Not Quitting My Day Job

29 January 2015

From author Kameron Hurley:

In the spirit of honesty and transparency that’s often sorely lacking in the literary world, here’s what I’ve been paid for my novels for the last 7 years.

Many of you don’t realize I’ve had writing contracts for 7 years! That’s because the first contract I ever signed was canceled. They paid it out anyway. But it was nearly three more years before those books saw print, so my professional writing career didn’t start until 2011.

Needless to say, I’ve had a day job this entire time because I like money and also paying for health insurance and food and paying off student loans.

This is the first year that book advances, royalties, and my day job salary will all combine to bring me up over the $100,000 a year mark (likely $105,000 or so, depending on outstanding items).  I was pretty much destitute in 2007 – laid off, sleeping in a friend’s spare bedroom, living completely on credit cards – so 7 years from penniless to $100k is a big milestone for me, and I intend to celebrate it by paying off a student loan.

The goal is to be debt-free (aside from the mortgage) in two years.

I also worked relentlessly to get here, and I’m aware it could all blow up tomorrow.

About 75% of that money I’ll make this year, still, comes from my day job. The numbers below show why.

15% of all of these amounts went to the agent who negotiated the deal.

Another 15-20% went toward taxes.

. . . .

[After listing advances and rights sales for various books]

You can see the advances there looking pretty grim after the 2008 publishing crash. Prior to the crash, there were a lot more people getting $20k advances and saying, “Hey, yeah, that’s OK,” instead of “Thank GOD.” They became harder to get after 2008.

. . . .

This is a tough business to stay in, especially if you don’t have a solid day job or a partner with same. I hear folks say that the 4-5 book place is where a lot of folks start to make money, and it’s true that this is the first year I could earn what I’d call a living wage if I quit or was laid off. But I know too much about publishing – and the changing tastes of the readership – to go all in making $30-40k a year when I’ve spent this long slogging to get to $100k through a combined workaholic income stream of novels, day job, and freelancing. You don’t give all that up just because you had one positive year.

If I’ve learned anything about publishing it’s that you should always hope that one great year is the start of an upward trend – but you should never count on it.

I was poor in 2007. I have no interest in going back if I can help it.

And that’s why I’m not quitting my day job.

Link to the rest at Kameron Hurley and thanks to Margaret for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kameron Hurley’s books

Oh noes, the sky is falling

29 January 2015

From Mad Genius Club:

On  one of the mailing lists I belong to, someone commented about how Publishers Weekly was basically declaring the imminent death of science fiction. According to PW, sales of SF were down 21% in 2013 and another 7% in 2014. In other words, SF sales were down approximately 4.14 million units and now is smaller than the graphic novel market. Needless to say, yours truly (as well as everyone else on the list including the person who posted it) met those numbers with skepticism. My concern about the accuracy of the report came not only because it was from PW but also because there was no breakdown as to whether this was talking print only, print and e-book sales and how those numbers were gathered.

So, yours truly went searching for more information this morning and surprise, surprise. It turns out we were right to be skeptical. It seems that those numbers come from Bookscan. You know, our friendly neighborhood sales reporter that doesn’t count every sale from every outlet but uses handwavium to figure out what title has sold how many units. Bookscan that doesn’t track every title, as in most indie titles aren’t included. Bookscan that is iffy at best when it comes to reporting e-book sales. But, if we are to take PW seriously, we are to worry about the decline in demand for science fiction.

Sorry, but no. If PW and those looking at the figures and wringing their hands would know if they simply took a little time to think about it, all these figures show is that people are tired of what is coming out of most traditional publishing houses when it comes to SF.

. . . .

I went to Amazon and checked the top 10 best sellers. It didn’t surprise me at all to see that, out of the top 10 in SF best selling e-books, only three were from from traditional publishers and one of those is a reprint. If you continue looking at the rest of the titles in the Top 100, you find that the vast majority of them are either small press or indie published books. That should say something. The lesson there is that science fiction is not dead. Far from it in fact.

That isn’t to say that the numbers PW posted are completely wrong or that those reading them see a decline in SF sales. Where they are wrong is in how they interpret the numbers.

Link to the rest at Mad Genius Club and thanks to Dave for the tip.

To light

29 January 2015

To light a candle is to cast a shadow.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Big-Box Store Has New Life as an Airy Public Library

29 January 2015

From The New York Times:

The hulking husk of a vacant Walmart here in the Rio Grande Valley is enjoying an unlikely second act. When the big-box retailer moved to a larger location down the street, the building might have been destined to house yet another large chain or to fall into disrepair. But rather than let it become an eyesore, the city scooped it up and spent $24 million transforming the drab structure into a 123,000-square-foot public library that serves as a vibrant space for residents here.

The library, which the McAllen Public Library system says “may very well be the largest single-floor public library in the nation,” has a modern, cheery feel. Twenty-foot ceilings, combined with new skylights and windows, create a bright, airy interior. Large three-dimensional signs that mark the sections hang from the ceilings, creating cozy nooks below.

The building includes a computer lab, a cafe, meeting rooms with videoconferencing capabilities and a 180-seat auditorium. It is a major upgrade from the city’s old 40,000-square-foot main library, which had cramped shelves and limited seating.

“In the old place, basically every table or chair next to an electrical outlet was taken, and you had others glancing longingly at those seats,” said John Donohue, the library’s circulation supervisor, who has been with the system for 31 years. “Now, we have outlets at all tables.”

. . . .

Residents have flocked to the new library, which opened its doors in December. It now serves more than double the number of patrons it did in the old building — about 62,000 people visited in July, up from 28,000 in July 2011.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Cora for the tip.

Why “Spotify For Books” May Not Be The Future Of Publishing. (Yet.)

29 January 2015

From The Economist:

“BEWARE of the person of one book,” said Thomas Aquinas, a medieval friar and author. The risk of encountering such unscholarly types is rarer in modern times. Digital devices can hold dozens of e-books, so people can carry around a whole shelf of reading material with them. Now a new crop of e-book subscription companies is offering bibliophiles the chance to consume as many books as they like, from a huge range of titles, for a flat fee of around $10 a month.

It is a bit like having a whole lending library in your pocket—but with no need to return the books. In America the main providers of e-book subscriptions include Amazon, Oyster and Scribd.

. . . .

The subscription model has already taken off in music and television, with providers such as Spotify and Netflix. Consumers have shown an increasing preference for such all-you-can-eat bundles, as opposed to buying each item separately. That worries book publishers and authors, who still make most of their money from sales of single copies. So far they have approached subscription services cautiously, holding back their newest and most popular titles from them.

. . . .

The record companies tolerate music-streaming services like Spotify, which pay them only modest fees, because the alternative is a continued rise in music piracy—on which they earn nothing at all. However, piracy of e-books is not such a problem: it is perfectly feasible for publishers to keep back some titles from subscription services and make money by selling individual copies of them.

Link to the rest at The Economist and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Advertising for KDP Select

29 January 2015

From Amazon:

With advertising for KDP Select, you can use Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to purchase advertising to promote your KDP-Select-enrolled books on To get started, you can create an Amazon Marketing Services account directly on the KDP website. You set the budget you want to spend and the maximum amount you are willing to pay when a customer clicks your ad. Customers who click your ad will go to your book’s product detail page. You’ll only be charged when your ad is clicked if your ad is displayed, but if it is not clicked, you are not charged.

How It Works
First, choose the book you want to promote, and specify how you want your ad to be targeted. Then decide how much you’re willing to spend promoting it. You’ll also need to set a start and end date for when you want the ad to be delivered.

You can choose to have your ad delivered to customers who previously browsed the Kindle Store for a particular genre, or to customers interested in specific products on Amazon.

Bidding and Budget
Your book’s ads automatically compete in an online auction. You’ll choose your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid when you schedule your ad. Your CPC bid is the maximum amount you will be charged when a customer clicks your ad. To advertise, you must place a minimum CPC bid of $0.02 and set a minimum campaign budget of $100.00.

Your actual cost-per-click is determined in an auction that takes place with other eligible ads. You will be charged $0.01 more than the second-highest bid in the auction for a click, up to your maximum CPC bid.

Paying for Ads
You pay only when customers click your ad. If they see it but don’t click, you are not charged. You’ll enter or select a major debit or credit card in your or Amazon Marketing Services account (not your KDP account), and you’ll be charged periodically in small increments as your campaign goes on.

Link to the rest at Amazon and thanks to Robert for the tip.

This is basically the way that Google advertising works.

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